For years, my Sunday School class encouraged me to make highlights of our Bible study times together available to a wider audience. Based on their suggestion, I decided to compile a group of messages and publish them in a devotional book format. Over several months, I hand-selected 360 messages that seemed to have the greatest impact – and today, The Teachable Heart Devotionals (Volumes 1 and 2) are available!
If you have found the messages from The Teachable Heart to be beneficial, please consider purchasing a copy for personal use and perhaps additional copies to give as gifts. Unlike many devotionals that are intended to be started on January 1st, The Teachable Heart devotionals are intentionally designed so they can be picked up any day of the year - so ANY day is a good day to begin!
Books purchased directly from Westbow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson/Zondervan, will result in a slightly greater benefit to the ministry. However, please feel free to purchase from your preferred retailer. Proceeds from book sales will be used to defray ministry expenses; any profit will be donated to charity.
Thank you for your support!
Volume 1, Day 1 – In The Image of the Same God
My older daughter, Amanda, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (a form of autism) since early childhood. She is a wonderfully bright child with a heart of gold – and she sees life through a unique set of lenses.
A few years ago, she randomly asked, “Dad, why do others have to put a label on me?” I tried to give her an academic response, explaining that it was to help the rest of us try to understand people with similar characteristics, etc. She didn’t buy it for a second. In fact, her response blew me away, and I’ve never looked at her the same in the years since. “But Daddy, I’m not sick,” she replied, “I just think differently than they do.” Before I could recover from that profound truth, she went on to add something far too wise for her thirteen years – words that hit me right between the eyes and brought this once pride-filled dad to his knees. “Daddy, I was made in the image of the same God they were.”
Seems like such a simple truth today, but for years I had let well-meaning people convince me that my precious daughter was a problem to be fixed – as something broken, and as someone who, as her parent, I shouldn’t take pride in. Scripture tells us to “delight” in our children – yet in my formerly tainted view, I wondered how a parent could delight in something that was “damaged.” My tendency was to frantically strain and search for the perfect remedy that would somehow make everything ‘better.’
But because of the godly insight of a tender child, I now ignore those telling me my kiddo is a problem, and I have learned to take delight in Amanda just as she is. Turns out that the one God wanted to change….was me.
How do we view those around us – those we see as being the same as us, and those we see as being vastly different? Beginning today, start repeating this truth, “They were made in the image of the same God I was.”
God created man in His own image… (Genesis 1:27, NASB)
Volume 2, Day 1 – Tapeinos
Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke
upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest
for your souls. (Matthew 11:28-29, emphasis added)
To the best of my knowledge, the passage above is the only time Jesus described His inner
being using His own words. As a result, we stand to learn much about our Savior by carefully studying the words He chose. While I have so very far to go, it is my heart’s desire to become as much like Christ as possible. Therefore, I want to know the meanings of the words He used to describe Himself. Toward that end, I recently completed a thorough study of “humble” for my Greek class. While the entire paper is FASCINATING reading, I’ll just give you the gist here!
The Greek word used (tapeinos) originally meant “low-lying” and described objects that did not rise far from the ground. It was assigned to those who were poor, unimportant, of little social influence, and powerless. Therefore, in the Greek culture, where man was the highest measure of all things, to be considered “humble” was shameful and contemptible.
However, in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament), a dramatic contrast is immediately evident. While the basic notion of being low, oppressed, and afflicted remains, the word describes desirable traits for a child of God. In a theocentric view of mankind, humans are rightly viewed as lower than God, and humble describes a person who has been brought into right relationship with God and with others.
In Matthew 11, Christ used the term to describe Himself as He extended a warm, friendly
welcome to lost, weary sinners. He could welcome the lowly and the oppressed because He
was among them. If we look closely, we see that Jesus did not simply say that He was humble, but that He was humble in heart. Lowly and humble did not describe just His earthly living conditions. No, EVERYTHING about Christ was lowly and humble.
He was humble in His will, in His attitude, and in His thoughts. He was humble in His desires, His decisions, and in His actions as He chose to leave His throne in heaven and come to serve and save sinful man. It is no wonder that Paul pointed to Christ and told his readers to develop that same attitude (Philippians 2:6-11). To see others as more significant than ourselves, to put their needs ahead of our own, to empty ourselves as we lay down our lives in service to Him and others – knowing that those who humble themselves now will one day be exalted by God.
Humble described all of Jesus – does it describe us?
Volume 3, Day 1 – Runways
“He will fly; he just needs a longer runway!”
I needed to hear those words. As parents of a young adult with some special needs, my wife and I have wondered – frequently – if any of us are going to “make it.” I haven’t conducted the research, but my suspicion is that the prevailing feelings among us parents are fear and failure.
We fear that our children won’t be ready for the world without us – and we blame ourselves. That being the case, we occasionally need reminders that God has plans for all of His children – including ours – plans that He will roll out in His way and in His time. Or as the mother of a twenty-seven year-old son with challenges stated above, some kids need longer runways before they soar.
Even if this hasn’t been your experience, I hope you’ll keep reading. You see, many of the expectations we put on our children are placed upon them (and us) by our culture, not by God Himself. Who is really to say that all kids should learn to talk by this age or ride a bike by that age? Why is it expected that all children will be ready to leave the home after only 18 years? We are all individuals; we all grow in different ways, at different rates. Why not cut one another some slack? I think Scripture calls that grace.
Did you know that the Piper Super Cub can take off with only twenty feet of runway? However, the Boeing 747 requires nearly 10,000 feet. They are completely different planes with different designs, different purposes, and therefore, different requirements for takeoff. We don’t expect our planes to take off in the same manner; is it wise to expect our children to?
God’s creation has a lot of variability – and He called it “good.” Maybe we should too.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
Volume 4, Day 45 – Do They Care?
Several years ago, Christian researcher George Barna published the results of a national survey focused on those unaffiliated with any church (aka “the unchurched”). Among the many
other fascinating revelations were the responses to the question, “What would seek in a church if you were to look for one?”
The number-one answer, ahead of the theological beliefs of the church, the quality of programs for children, church involvement in helping poor, coffee bar at the welcome area, or even the quality of the sermons and music, was this:
Do the people seem to care for one another?
Certainly the qualities mentioned above are important for a church. However, what the
unchurched want to see is whether “this whole Christian thing” really makes a difference in the lives of those who claim to have it. Specifically, does what we claim to believe translate into
genuine love for people?
Coffee, comfortable seats, quality music, and good sermons won’t keep people at a church if they don’t readily experience real care and love. An unloved church member will soon become an uninvolved church member, and eventually they’ll leave in search of a more loving environment.
It’s no wonder Jesus kept it short and to the point when He said, “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17). It’s just that simple and just that hard!
May I ask a difficult question today? If your church was only as loving as you are personally,
how loving would an “outsider” conclude your church is?
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